The seminal literature on nationalism has tended to assume that national identities are mutually exclusive. A recent literature has challenged this assumption, suggesting that due to the fluid nature of identity politics, it is possible for individuals or societies to simultaneously hold to multiple national identities. An example from this literature is the case of Catalonia in Spain, where many people consider themselves to have both a Catalan and a Spanish national identity. Despite the growing literature around multiple nationalisms, relatively little is known about what prevents these identities from being constructed as mutually exclusive. Furthermore, limited attention has been given to how these national identities interact with each other in such circumstances.
This thesis addresses these issues by asking how two national identities, the Balinese sub-state national identity and the Indonesian state-based national identity, can coexist in the same polity without becoming mutually exclusive. It also seeks to determine what factors contribute to making such an arrangement possible. A constructivist approach, influenced by the findings of Social Identity Theory, is used to examine the relationship between these two national identities.
A case study method is used to analyse what makes the relationship between the Balinese and Indonesian national identities possible. It focuses on the development of this relationship between 1999 and 2008. A range of methods, including field work and document analysis, are used to provide an understanding of how these two identities are understood by people who identify as Balinese.
This case was chosen for two reasons. First, during this time period, other sub-state nations in Indonesia had either seceded (such as East Timor) or had developed strong secessionist movements (such as Papua and Aceh). This leads to the question of why Bali, which has been described as ‘almost a state within a state’ (Hitchcock and Putra 2007: 14), did not develop a popular secessionist movement. Second, there have been few examinations of multiple nationalisms in societies which are not European or European settler societies. This case is from the postcolonial world, and so provides insights into how such relationships work in this context.
This thesis finds that Balinese sub-state national identity as it is currently constructed only makes sense in the context of its relationship with broader Indonesian national identity. Where the Indonesian national identity has been constructed in ways which could potentially exclude Bali, Balinese elites have sought to defend other conceptions of Indonesian nationalism which are more harmonious with Balinese sub-state national identity. For example, in response to Islamist legislation such as the 2008 ‘Pornography Law’, Balinese elite discourses have highlighted symbols and discourses that support a construction of Indonesian identity which is based on a diverse, multi-faith Indonesian nationalism. It is thus argued that the Indonesian national identity is being constructed in ways that support its continued co-existence with the Balinese national identity. These findings also suggest that one reason that multiple national identities can co-exist without becoming mutually exclusive is because in some instances particular ‘identity entrepreneurs’ popularise constructions of state and sub-state national identities in such a way that they come to rely on each other for meaning and are understood to be intertwined.